November 30, 2023

Knicks seek $10M+ in damages from Raptors, say Silver shouldn’t arbitrate

In a courtroom submitting Monday, the New York Knicks stated they’re looking for greater than $10 million in damages from the Toronto Raptors as part of a lawsuit alleging the theft of thousands of confidential files, and argued that NBA commissioner Adam Silver shouldn’t arbitrate the dispute in half due to his shut relationship with Raptors governor Larry Tanenbaum.

The Knicks’ submitting, which was obtained by ESPN, got here in response to the Raptors’ Oct. 16 motion to dismiss the Knicks’ initial complaint and have Silver arbitrate the dispute.

In Monday’s submitting, the Knicks additionally argued Tanenbaum’s place because the chairman of the NBA’s board of governors would create a battle of curiosity, as “Tanenbaum serves as Silver’s boss and exercises control over and heavily influences Silver’s continued employment and salary.” Further, the Knicks pointed to a friendship between Silver and Tanenbaum.

“Among other things, Tanenbaum has been described as ‘a close ally of Commissioner Adam Silver,'” the Knicks wrote. “Silver himself described Tanenbaum as ‘not just my boss as the chairman of the board of governors, but he’s very much a role model in my life.’ If Silver were to preside over the instant dispute, he would be arbitrating a case for his boss and ally.”

The Raptors declined remark.

Monday’s submitting marked the primary occasion of the Knicks describing potential financial damages since they filed their preliminary grievance in August in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

That grievance accused former Knicks worker Ikechukwu Azotam, who labored for the Knicks from 2020 to 2023, of sending the Raptors 1000’s of confidential recordsdata — together with play frequency studies, a prep guide for the 2022-23 season, video scouting recordsdata, opposition analysis and extra — after the workforce started recruiting him to affix their group in summer season 2023.

The Knicks additionally accused Azotam — who labored for the Knicks as an assistant video coordinator, then as a director of video/analytics/participant growth assistant — of violating a confidentiality clause in an employment settlement and alleged that members of the Raptors “directed Azotam’s actions and/or knowingly benefited from Azotam’s wrongful acts.”

Further, the Knicks alleged that the Raptors “conspired to use Azotam’s position as a current Knicks insider to funnel proprietary information to the Raptors to help them organize, plan, and structure the new coaching and video operations staff,” the lawsuit states.

Raptors coach Darko Rajaković, participant growth coach Noah Lewis and 10 “unknown” Raptors staff have been additionally listed as defendants in the Knicks’ lawsuit.

During Raptors media day Oct. 2, Raptors president Masai Ujiri addressed the lawsuit, saying, “There has been one time a team has sued a team in the NBA. One time. Go figure.”

In an Oct. 16 submitting, the Raptors known as the Knicks’ lawsuit “baseless” and a “public relations stunt” whereas additionally calling for Silver to arbitrate the dispute. The Raptors have made that request a number of instances courting again to August.

In truth, roughly one week after the Knicks filed the preliminary grievance, the Raptors emailed NBA basic counsel Rick Buchanan asking for Silver to claim jurisdiction over the dispute between the groups, pursuant to bylaw “d” in Article 24 of the NBA’s structure. That bylaw states: “The Commissioner shall have exclusive, full, complete, and final jurisdiction of any dispute involving two (2) or more Members of the Association.”

But the Knicks — then and much more forcefully in Monday’s submitting — have objected to Silver adjudicating the dispute. In a Sept. 9 electronic mail to authorized counsel representing each groups, Buchanan said that the league would abide by additional proceedings in the Southern District Court in Manhattan “for a determination of whether this dispute should be adjudicated in federal court or before [Silver].”

In one other electronic mail Sept. 19, Buchanan repeated the league’s stance to authorized representatives from each groups.

In their submitting Monday that opposed any arbitration by Silver in the matter, the Knicks stated there aren’t any provisions in the NBA structure that handle the theft of mental property or the safety of a workforce’s mental property.

“Contrary to Defendants’ claims, this is not a dispute about basketball operations,” the Knicks wrote. “There is no nexus between the claims and the NBA Constitution — it is a dispute about the theft of trade secrets by a disloyal employee, a scenario not contemplated by the NBA Constitution. Trade secret misappropriation, breaches of contract, and tort claims are the types of issues routinely appearing before federal judges. We are unaware of the NBA Commissioner ever having handled something similar. As a matter of contract formation, the arbitration provision cannot be applied to Plaintiff’s claims.”

The Knicks pointed to the bounds on Silver’s energy for financial penalties beneath Article 24 of the NBA’s structure, which states that the commissioner can’t challenge a penalty of greater than $10 million. Further, the Knicks identified the league’s structure doesn’t authorize Silver to award authorized charges in disputes between two groups.

“As the Knicks intend to prove at trial, damages exceed $10 million,” the Knicks stated in Monday’s submitting, including that additionally they intend to seek attorneys’ charges.

An MSG spokesperson issued the next assertion to ESPN on Monday: “We were the victim of a theft of proprietary and confidential files, which is a clear violation of criminal and civil law, and we remain confident that the Court will decide in our favor in this matter.”